The political season favors culture and ideological warriors, for now

The political season favors culture and ideological warriors, for now. By Peta Credlin. (In Australia, “Liberals” are right and “Labor” is left.)

This shift in the political battle from economics to culture has been much easier for Labor to navigate. Unlike the Liberals, Labor’s fundamental concern has always been justice rather than prosperity. Identity politics demands an absolutism that is easy for Labor. By contrast, the Liberals’ belief in the individual and self-reliance butts up against a movement that now prioritises victimhood and grievance over community and resilience.

Instinctively, philosophical lib­erals are “seekers after truth”. They’re not natural warriors. That’s why, up against warriors — whether culture warriors, climate warriors, or identity warriors — they tend to retreat and compromise. Hence the sense, now rampant among the Liberal base, that there’s less and less difference ­between Labor and Liberal on policy; that on issues such a net zero or electric cars, for instance, Labor’s position at the last election will be the Liberals’ at the next one.

How do decent, easygoing people defend themselves against fanatics without succumbing to fanaticism? How do the tolerant defend themselves against the intolerant without sacrificing their tolerance? Because it’s that selfsame Enlightenment liberalism that, from its heyday, has given us a world that is still more free, more prosperous and more peaceful than at any other time. It’s a challenge that earlier generations have managed but this generation is struggling with — hence the sense that we’re managing our decline, even though modern Australia (and the wider West) has never been less racist or more sensitive to difference; never been more environmentally aware; and never been more generous to the disadvantaged. …

This is where last week’s election in the US state of Virginia has been so seismic. The victory of governor Glenn Youngkin on an orthodox centre-right platform of cutting taxes, cutting regulation and supporting the police — but with the added ingredient of banning leftist race indoctrination in schools — has reassured conservatives that the culture wars might be winnable after all.

If “quiet Americans” can back a candidate who promised to stand up for their values in schools, maybe the “quiet Australians” who backed Scott Morrison against a big-spending and emissions-obsessed Labor Party in 2019 might forgive his subsequent delinquencies — if, next term, he might become a warrior against the politically correct brainwashing in schools that has done so much to push our whole culture to the left.

The current political battle is mainly over cultural issues, the left’s chosen ground. However, as the inevitable consequences of decades of bureaucratic control of interest rates and money printing comes to a painful climax in the next few years, economics will dominate politics once more.